News from the front desk Issue 376 – On why greed … no wait, green, is good
The Fifth Estate | 1 March 2018
We’re constantly saying money talks and if the language is green, as far as we’re concerned, it can roar.
So while there’s a lot wrong with the system that has brought us to the edge of extinction in the first place, when the beast turns to saving planet, we want to be right there behind it, egging it on.
But it’s fast moving. It’s easy to get left behind in the negative naysaying self-talk of those who’ve spent too long staring into the coal mines.
What you need to do is elevate your line of sight to the richest most powerful and cleverest people on the planet. That’s right, Macquarie Bank. Well at least you’d think so from the long devotional pieces that the AFR has been running on this crew. But bear with us, this is good.
According to this now “green is good” capitalist citizen of the world, Mac Bank is going green. Strongly.
First it bought the Green Investment Bank from the UK government, in a A$4 billion deal. Remember we wrote about the huge fight to stop the “Vampire Kangaroo” storming in to potentially asset strip a nice and earnest green venture from the Brits.
It took two years of hard, hard work to win this prize for the MacBankers. They must be serious. And there is no way this is not indicative of bigger action under way.
Not only is the bank determined to prove itself worthy but it also wants to keep pushing into green places where no investment man or woman has been before (apologies to Star Wars).
Part of the reasoning is that the GIB was perceived as the “best vehicle for ensuring Britain would meet its international climate change commitments”.
“It took a major effort by us here in London, supported by people in Sydney on a daily basis for two years to get that secured, bed it down properly and get the record set straight with what our ambitions were around that,” a MacBank spokesperson said in the AFR report.
Two biggest mega trend in the next several mega trends
The GIB, the report said, “is a potential game changer for Macquarie globally because the assets, skills and connections it brings to the group will give it an edge in two of the biggest investment mega-trends over the next several decades – renewable energy and impact investing.”
The first mega-trend is the acceleration towards decarbonisation brought about by the global commitment to limit future global warming to below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
This means “about $US100 trillion in investment in infrastructure is required globally over the next 15 years” the report said, citing OECD, International Energy Agency and Investing in Climate Investment for Growth.
On impact investment the numbers are just as powerful.
One in every five dollars invested in 2016 by professional managers in the US was in sustainable, responsible or included impacting investing strategies, according to Morgan Stanley. The total amount committed in this manner $US8.72 trillion in 2016, up from $US3.74 trillion in 2012.
So if those figures aren’t strong enough to make you leap from your seat they should be.
And most of this comes from that wonderful tipping point year, 2015, when the Paris climate agreement was struck.
Under this new green regime Macquarie flags it will invest billions in renewables and impact investment and in a strong signal that it’s serious it also said it wants to be transparent.
So MacBank, will you come to our next Tomorrowland Summit later this year and tell us where exactly you’re putting your squillions?
Shutting down our democracy
So while there’s good news in the capital markets, the small and feeble government we’re saddled with in this country is still playing catch up and trying to stifle the very thing that will make the MacBankers rich.
The issue of rights to environmental related protest to stop coal mining is one that been seething away with The Fifth Estate for a few years now. Ever since that big galoot from Queensland George Christensen flagged that if you campaign against coal you are a traitor to the national interest (and what national interest is that exactly?).
Some people said this mad attempt to criminalise protest against coal mining would go nowhere. But our worst fears were confirmed when Christensen posted a photo of himself pointing a gun at imaginary greenies. Just the thing to tip the mind of some fragile wingnut over the edge.
So now Australia’s joined the crazies who point guns to make a point.
But that’s not all. The people who have the ear of this small and delicate little government have demanded the charity status of groups whose campaigns could be seen as political to be deregistered as a charity if they accept foreign donations.
So as 350.Org’s Blair Palese pointed out in her Spinifex contribution for us this week, which charity’s work is not political?
When you’re trying to solve issues around health, welfare, aid and the environment you need to go hell for leather to change the political settings, as well as direct aid to those in need. When you give someone fish, you feed them for a day, when you give someone a fishing rod … and giving people rods requires political will.
A draconian bill and a raft of related changes are now in play. All aimed at silencing or intimidating those who want a cleaner future and a fairer society. Vicious attacks on the ABC are in the same vein and sadly we think they’re working. Way too much self censoring and soft fluffy news.
We’d like to see these galoots try to silence the MacBank and see how far they get.
The waste industry keeps digging a bigger hole for itself
Palese’s story picked up strong traction with our readers online and in social media. Same with the recent articles we had on waste after China spat the dummy on importing waste and said “talk to the hand”.
This week Fairfax Media picked up on the growing tension and the crisis talks in the industry (flagged for us by Jeff Angel at the Total Environment Centre) with a broadside at the massive rorting going on with landfill.
The coverage pointed a finger at the integrity of green building ratings that predicate much of their credential on recycling. But as Cameron has found out there is little evidence that specific projects have been implicated.
But the industry itself looks as rotten as the content it deals with.
We sat next to a man on the plane coming back from Sydney a few weeks ago who was very enlightening on the topic.
He came aboard dressed in hi-vis not-very-clean work gear, safety glasses about to spill out of his top pocket and apologising in advance for his state. He’d been working 17 hours straight, he said. Miner? Road worker?
Turns out he was an engineer but one who happened to own a handful of companies some of which worked in waste and remediation. He’d cleared soil and water of oil and grease contamination in Australia, the US and China, he said. In Australia the industry was full of very unsavoury people.
“I used to think it was the triads, but it’s worse.” Some had threatened his life, he said.
But if you’re worried about the unsavouries rorting the system, he also said we should take a closer look at the EPA for not enforcing rules and laws and also at Sydney Water, which allows a certain ration of contamination to enter our waterways. Multiply that number by the number of litres entering the ocean and harbour and you’ll get a sense of how serious things are, he said.
It’s not a pretty exercise and brings us back again to the big question of who’s running this joint? Them or us? There are more of us than them. We vote.